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Are Traditions Holding You Back? Sponsorship Strategy and Brand Experience

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Lisa VanRosendale
Lisa VanRosendale

Senior VP, Business Development

FreemanXP

New trends that are transforming event sponsorship

In the busy world of event planning, sponsorships are often treated as a separate part of the event experience. Organizers and marketers are frequently so focused on managing the details of sponsorships that they sometimes forget to think through what attendees (and the sponsors themselves) get out of those sponsorships.

Instead, a far better approach is to immerse sponsors into the event community and make them an integral part of the overall event experience — which creates maximum value for both attendees and sponsors alike.

Make Sponsorships a Stimulating Experience

All too often, sponsorships are all about what the sponsoring company wants to show, not what the audience wants to see and learn about.  

However, to create sponsorship opportunities that truly engage attendees, step into an attendee’s shoes and think about their experience as a consumer. How do they buy? What information do they need? What problems do they have, and what problems can the sponsor solve?

That’s the first step: Understanding how to offer real value to attendees and how can your sponsors play a key role in delivering this message and value proposition to your attendees.

The next step is to figure out how to get attendees interested in the first place. What better way to attract attention than by delighting the senses? Experiences that stimulate multiple senses — think sound, light, scent, texture, and more — can powerfully captivate imaginations and delight audiences.

For instance, imagine a sports and RV show with light displays that mimic the feeling of dappled sunlight through leaves. Beautiful, right?

Now imagine that same display, but also imbued with a soft pine scent and the gentle trilling of birds in the trees. On a hectic and crowded show floor, who wouldn’t want to spend a few moments of serenity in such an idyllic setting? Sponsorships should play an integral role in building curiosity for your attendees.

The more comprehensive the sensory experience, the more distinctive and memorable it becomes for attendees.

Speaking of memorable, perhaps it’s time to get sponsors out of the booth altogether. Images, videos, and brochureware are helpful, but they pale in comparison when attendees can touch, see, and play with the product in a hands-on demo.

If a product doesn’t fit into the traditional booth space, organizers can give sponsors the opportunity to go even further outside the box. Consider ways to utilize event space more fully, perhaps by bringing sponsor displays into the lobby, foyer, or other common areas that are typically off–limits. 

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Consider the Successful “Airport Method” With Sponsorships to Create Better Environments for Attendees

Think about this: When consumers go to the airport, their purpose is to board a flight. However, the duty–free shops offer something the consumer values and therefore make the airport experience more pleasant overall.

You can use that same approach to boost attendee engagement. It’s called leveraging and building out a non-endemic/lifestyle sponsor community.

An endemic sponsor creates products or services directly for the industry that complement and broaden the focus of your event. A non–endemic sponsor is not as directly connected.

For example, a leading tech industry event curated an experience with Alaska Airlines, although the airline may appear to have had nothing to do with the specific business products delivered at the event.  Profiling the attendees proved that they were frequent travelers and this unique experience allowed a non–endemic sponsor to participate and delivered benefits to both the sponsor and the attendee. 

Opening up sponsorship opportunities to non–endemic sponsors requires, once again, stepping into the attendees’ shoes and asking what they would find of value.

For this same reason, competition for sponsorships has expanded broadly to create unexpected yet symbiotic partnerships. Tech companies are sponsoring music festivals, and soft drink companies are sponsoring fashion shows.

This approach creates a world of potential for organizers who are willing to get creative, think laterally, and position their event as a unique platform for sponsors to reach new markets, while still delivering amazing value to attendees.

Events have evolved rapidly in the last several years and are now becoming more immersive, more attendee–focused, and more imaginative — delivering more of an event (instead of simply a show). Sponsorship strategies must evolve as well if organizers hope to maximize the benefits for the sponsors, attendees, and themselves, and create a win–win–win situation for everybody. 

Learn more about building a better sponsorship model

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